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The Sith have Grand Plans and the like, and in particular specific Sith all seems to have some overarching goals even if they do not always mesh perfectly with other Sith's goals.

The Jedi meanwhile do not really seem to be driven to complete some overarching design. They always talk about "bringing balance to the force"; Which to them means specifically kill everyone who uses the force in a way the Jedi don't like. But you do not even often see them actively hunting Sith, instead waiting for one to reveal itself and challenge them or waiting for "The Chosen One" to come and do it for them.

The Jedi have refereed to themselves as peacekeepers, but then they are also very obliviously warriors and specifically Yoda once said that a jedi should not even attempt to prevent the death of others. So they do not object to death, do they object to the chaos of war? Do they object to tyranny (anakin did not seem to think that a tyrant was antithetical to the jedi way, and Obi Wan did not use any jedi philosophy argument to argue with him about it)? Other than not wanting a Sith to rule the universe do they have a preference to how it is run?

They almost seem like they believe just letting whatever happens happen. It is the duty to kill Sith, if they know of one, but sometimes that seems to be as close as they seem to come to wanting to consciously shape events.

Do the Jedi have some overarching plan for the universe or even themselves? Or are they like some sort of extreme nihilist crossed with a Buddhist, who views shaping existence as an inherently evil or worthless affair?

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    I don't have any sources so I won't add it as answer but their "purpose" seems to be facilitating self determination. They usually only get involved in situations where one entity is attempting to enforce it's will on another. They intervene on an entities behalf if they see one side as being no match for the other. As for the Sith they usually toss in a few lines to the effect of "It doesn't have to be this way. You can come to the light side." So it would seem redemption is a perfectly viable alternative to killing them. – kylie.a Aug 14 '15 at 16:40
  • Is not peackeeping the galaxy a megalomaniacal overaching purpose? – jean Aug 14 '15 at 16:44
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    massacre who? enemy droids? the other side of the civil war was waging war on civilians. – phantom42 Aug 14 '15 at 17:06
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    "The Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic." – ThruGog Aug 14 '15 at 20:18
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    They’re here to kick ass and chew gum. AND THEY’RE ALL OUTTA GUM – Paul D. Waite Aug 15 '15 at 11:52
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The ultimate purpose of the Jedi Order can, I suggest, be discerned from the Jedi Code, somewhat akin to the Athanasian Creed, a five-line koan which represents their own (self-perceived) highest ideals:

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force.

This indicates that their highest ideals revolve around self-possession, scholarship, calm, harmony etc, hence all the talk about seeking balance in the Force, which first means seeking balance within oneself (which is why Yoda kept counselling Anakin to take control of his own wild emotions at first instance, when he kept worrying about his wife, the Council, the galaxy etc). It is similar to Taoist and Buddhist ideas of balancing the various forces within oneself - not a balance between Sith and Jedi or the Light and Dark sides of the Force (as some have suggested), since the Dark side would by definition be the result of an imbalance. Hence the Order's reclusiveness, austerity and emphasis on meditation and "sensing" things.

The overall goal of all this is greater and greater unity with the Force (cf. the saying "be one with the Force"), i.e. a Buddhist or Hindu-like quest for mystical union, which would finally result in transcendence - total absorption into the Force, as the last line indicates. (The Jedi also appear to believe that this merging with the Force also occurs at a Jedi's death.)

So where does this leave the rest of the universe? There is a famous Sanskrit saying, om mani padme hum, which likely influenced Lucas (given that he named a major character Padme!). This saying has many meanings, but basically asserts that the macrocosmos is an external reflection of the internal soul. In this context, it would mean that seeking balance within the external world is part of seeking balance within oneself, so as part of a Jedi's mission of transcendence, they would feel obliged to also bring balance, serenity, harmony, etc to those around them (filling the function of the Buddhist bodhisattvas). Hence, "guardians of peace and justice throughout the Galaxy". (Now whether or not they were any good at actually achieving this is another matter!)

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    Except that they don't spend their time navel-gazing, they spend their time out in the galaxy doing things. – Valorum Aug 15 '15 at 17:56
  • Hence the "obliged to also bring balance, serenity, harmony, etc to those around them ... guardians of peace and justice throughout the Galaxy". Bear in mind though, that the only Jedi we follow in the SW media are the ones who travel across the Galaxy and engage in thrilling battles, because otherwise it would make for pretty dull fiction! In any case, the question was how did they see themselves and their ultimate goals not what they actually did. Mediating trade disputes and fighting droids or AT-ATs may have been a short-term objective, but it wasn't a purpose. – Meir Illumination Aug 15 '15 at 20:42
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    To be fair, they do seem to be a fair amount of navel gazing. – Jonathon Aug 15 '15 at 21:13
  • An individual is not the same thing as the Force ( or the galaxy/universe ). The balance of the Force is not any one person's internal balance. At most it can be said that one depends upon the other, but all that really means is "the Chosen One must get his act together if he is to fulfill his destiny". Internal balance would have been characteristic of a proper Jedi. The balance of the Force is indeed a balance between the light and dark sides. The mere existence of the dark side does not connote imbalance, as the dark side is a fundamental part of the Force according to Lucas. – Ras Morthil Aug 16 '15 at 0:37
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Per the official databank blurb on the Starwars.com website (considered a canon source of info about the Star Wars universe);

Jedi Order:

A noble order of protectors unified by their ability to tap into the power of the Force, the Jedi Order were the guardians of peace and justice in the Galactic Republic.

Which strongly echoes Obi-Wan's speech to Luke in A New Hope:

For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.

So their primary purpose was to serve as galactic peacekeepers.

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